Central Florida’s Griffin inspires Auburn family

Shaquem Griffin, a linebacker for UCF, holds Jordan Davis on Wednesday. Griffin and Davis were each affected by Amniotic Band Syndrome before they were born.

Shaquem Griffin, a linebacker for UCF, holds Jordan Davis on Wednesday. Griffin and Davis were each affected by Amniotic Band Syndrome before they were born.

Jordan and John Davis do not want to be held by their parents.

The 19-month-old twins reach for the microphones held by the reporters interviewing their mom, Amanda, and dad, Matthew, at the Omni hotel Wednesday. They point to the lights and say words that make sense only to toddlers.

And then Amanda Davis hands Jordan to Shaquem Griffin, a one-handed linebacker for Central Florida and the reason the Davises drove from their home in Auburn, Ala., to Atlanta on Wednesday morning.

Jordan, wearing an orange-and-blue flannel shirt and orange-and-blue vest because his family members are Auburn fans, grows quiet and relaxes as he leans on Griffin’s broad chest.

Griffin says something, but Jordan still doesn’t stir, despite pleas for him to turn his head and look at Griffin so better photos can be taken.

“He’s usually not like this,” Amanda Davis said to Griffin, who smiles as he looks over his left shoulder at Jordan Davis’ blond curls and relaxed face. Davis’ tiny right hand hangs down, and the bond between the two can be seen.

Shaquem Griffin, a linebacker for UCF, meets Amanda and Matthew Davis on Wednesday. Amanda is holding Jordan Davis and Matthew is holding John. Griffin and Jordan Davis were each affected by Amniotic Band Syndrome before they were born.

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Jordan Davis and Griffin were affected before birth by amniotic band syndrome, a condition that can result in blood flow being restricted to the limbs of the fetus.

ABS affected Griffin’s left hand, eventually resulting in it being amputated when he was 4 years old. Despite having one hand, the linebacker has made numerous All-American teams and will lead the Knights into the Chick-fil-A Peach Bowl against Auburn at Mercedes-Benz Stadium on Monday.

ABS affected both of Jordan Davis’ hands – his few fingers are short and bulbous – and made his feet clubbed. To correct his feet, doctors started putting him in corrective casts when he was 1 week old. He has undergone four surgeries – two on his hands and two on his legs - and will have another Friday to split two fingers on one of his hands. The procedures are performed at the Shriners Hospital for Children in Greenville, S.C.

Davis’ parents had never heard of ABS and didn’t know anything was affecting his development until he was born. Amanda said it was shocking.

“We weren’t sure what to think,” Matthew said. “‘How’s his life going to turn out?’”

Midway through the college football season, friends started telling the Davises about Griffin, whose profile was raised after being featured in a "The Best" edition of Sports Illustrated in November. The Davises began following Griffin and the Knights, who can set a school record for victories (13) if they can defeat the Tigers.

“Once we heard about you and started watching you, it’s a world of possibilities, you know?” Matthew Davis said.

When the bowl pairings were announced and Auburn and UCF were put together, Amanda Davis thought it would be a perfect opportunity for Jordan Davis to meet Griffin.

But she didn’t know who to call or how to make the meeting happen.

Matthew Davis’ stepmom, Penny Davis, knew someone in the UCF Alumni Office. That person started making calls, and the Davises were invited to Wednesday’s news conference to meet Griffin.

“I will always have doubters,” Griffin said to the Davises. “My whole thing is to make sure I keep moving down this road because if I can do so, anybody can.

“I’m going to make sure I stay behind that and stick to my story. It doesn’t feel like anything I have is a disability because I can do anything I put my mind to.”

The twins, who were born a minute apart, just like Shaquem and his twin brother Shaquill, don’t seem to know that one is slightly different than the other.

“He’s just as tenacious and curious and energetic,” Amanda said of Jordan. “He’s never looked at anything like he couldn’t do it.”

The only clue that there is some recognition occurs when Jordan grabs one of John’s hands, looks at it, and then looks at his own hand. But then the boys will resume whatever they were doing: throwing balls or playing with the drums and tambourines brought by Santa Claus.

Both parents beam as Griffin holds Jordan as reporters are politely escorted out so the player and family can have a few minutes alone.

“We are really looking forward to the chance he’s going to have to look back on this and pull some inspiration from it,” Amanda Davis said.